Projections for the future of the warehouse have to take into account a lot of change in people’s behaviour. With the popularity of online shopping increasing and the demand for click and collect type services becoming ubiquitous, warehouses will have to adapt significantly – but how can they change to meet customers’ needs?
If customers are going to demand increasingly cheaper products with higher quality and faster service, firms will only be able to meet this demand by investing in a total redesign of the supply chain. We are already seeing a shift in how different warehouses are used, with warehouses on the outskirts of cities being reshaped to act as hubs, and many of these hubs being shared between several manufacturers.
Models like this require a great deal of trust between manufacturers, retailers and the third-party logistics service providers they use. Companies will need to manage their supply chains more closely to keep stock moving and flowing through the system, straight to the customer at a moment’s notice. Consequently, warehouses will likely become local transit sheds, or parcel and pallet hubs for cross-docking.
Demand for shorter lead times from customers will in all likelihood mean that large centralised warehouses will be replaced by smaller local centres, allowing for much faster home delivery and reduced fuel costs for firms. Online shopping will also lead to a need for better technological solutions for faster picking and packing of small orders.
This is where the need for automated systems will increase. There will always be a need for humans in the warehouse, but in future they may be relegated to mainly working as IT and equipment engineers, as opposed to manual labourers – although the need for specialised pickers and services like gift wrapping will remain.
This kind of work may well be performed entirely by robots or AGVs (automated guided vehicles), meaning that the need for uniformity will increase. Robots and automated systems require regular cartons and totes, as well as uniformly sized pallets. Vacuum conveyor systems such as those available from https://www.aptech.uk.com/pneumatic-conveying-systems/vacuum-conveying/ help in the movement of liquids, powders and even pharmaceutical tablets within a warehouse environment and have become an incredibly popular choice in those companies looking to advance their practices.
Most importantly, however, warehouses will be expected to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They will need to be adaptable to changing customer demands, and stay flexible in the face of evolving manufacturing and retail industries.